Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
NSSGA applauds Congress and the administration for diligently drafting and advancing the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in the 117th Congress. The aggregates industry is working to deliver the billions of tons of construction materials needed to build the roads, bridges, tunnels, rail, transit, ports, energy facilities (including solar and wind), water conveyance systems, broadband capacity and public works project funded through IIJA. At all stages of implementation, we encourage every federal agency to efficiently execute and deliver IIJA’s investment to project planners. Below are the specific issues NSSGA is advocating for within this topic:
ENSURE RAPID AND EFFICIENT IMPLEMENTATION OF INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION
At all stages of implementation, we encourage every federal agency to efficiently execute and deliver IIJA’s investment to project planners. Below are the specific issues NSSGA is advocating for within this topic:
- Avoid Partisan Mandates, Provide DOTs Flexibility: Whether investing in rural community roads or a new urban transit system, federal infrastructure investment should benefit all Americans. That is why we are concerned with proposed policies that were not included in IIJA, which insert new, partisan criteria into the planning process, such as restrictions on new highway capacity projects. Utilizing existing formulas and funding structures is key to accelerating work and is the best way to ensure the promises of IIJA are delivered to every community. While distributing funds, the administration must continue to provide state and local governments with the flexibility to address and prioritize their unique transportation needs – as Congress intended – and keep partisan mandates that Congress rejected out of the implementing guidelines.
- Execute Permitting Reform: The IIJA includes critical policy provisions to ensure taxpayer dollars flow expeditiously to the array of infrastructure projects, without sacrificing environmental standards. IIJA makes key steps in permitting reform by codifying One Federal Decision, expanding categorical exclusions, expediting interagency reviews, and granting greater flexibility around utility relocation. NSSGA is concerned about new rulemakings that would complicate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures, and we oppose efforts that further complicate federal permitting requirements.
- Buy America Exclusion: Title 9 of IIJA includes a broad expansion of Buy America requirements to federally funded infrastructure projects. Section 70917 clearly excludes from the new Buy America requirements, “cement and cementitious materials, aggregates such as stone, sand, or gravel, or aggregate binding agents or additives” and the mixes where these products are used, like concrete and asphalt. OMB, all federal agencies, and state DOT’s must follow the statute, while implementing IIJA to ensure these critical inputs and resources can be efficiently sourced. Should Congress consider further changes to federal sourcing requirements, they must not impose additional mandates on these specifically excluded materials and inputs that cannot be sourced onshore. If the exclusions are not followed, then many areas of the country will not be able to build Infrastructure.
- ROCKS Act: NSSGA strongly supported the inclusion of Section 11526 in IIJA, which establishes a working group to examine and produce policies that ensure our nation has sustainable access to aggregate resources. This provision was similar to the bipartisan legislation, Rebuilding Our Communities by Keeping Aggregates Sustainable (ROCKS) Act, which was championed by Rep. Greg Stanton (AZ), Rep. Troy Balderson (OH), Sen. Mark Kelly (AZ) and Sen. Rob Portman (OH). While states like Arizona and Minnesota have acted to institute policies that ensure proper planning to maintain sustainable aggregate supplies, the federal government must also be involved in this planning. This will reduce construction costs and improve environmental outcomes, as the industry works to source materials needed to build the infrastructure funded under IIJA. NSSGA looks forward to working with FHWA, as they form the working group established under Section 11526.
Improving Infrastructure Challenges
While IIJA takes a historic step in addressing our nation’s infrastructure challenges, there are still several important areas where Congress must act to ensure America does not fall further behind. Below are the specific issues NSSGA continues to work on within this topic:
- Water Resources Development: Aggregates and industrial sand materials are a critical component for the various Army Corps of Engineers projects covered under WRDA that improve ports and harbors; enhance waterway infrastructure traffic; protect our shorelines; and mitigate flooding in our communities. NSSGA has long supported the bipartisan efforts to pass WRDA in each Congress and encourages this work to continue in the 118th Congress, before the 2022 WRDA bill expires. Further, we call on Congress to ensure robust appropriations are available each fiscal year to fund the construction projects authorized by Congress to keep critical water infrastructure work moving forward.
- Rail Service Reform: The aggregates and industrial sand industries support common-sense solutions that will bolster our supply chain and rail networks, which are currently failing these industries. We support the reforms being examined by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) that would increase competition (particularly to smaller, rural, and underserved communities) and transparency to improve rail service. We support legislative efforts in Congress to reauthorize the STB, giving the agency the tools needed to level the playing field between shippers and carrier.
- Material Neutrality: NSSGA strongly believes Congress should maintain a material-neutral approach and should not legislate market share. NSSGA opposes attempts by competing materials to utilize legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act, the Farm Bill and appropriations bills to promote market share by establishing material-specific deployment programs. When executing federal investments, material choice decisions should be left to engineers and construction professionals who have the expertise and local knowledge needed to plan and execute projects.
- Complete Annual Spending Bills: Completion of the 12 annual appropriations bills is critical to the aggregates and industrial sand industries, as they provide significant investment to infrastructure through discretionary programs and support the work of agencies that are essential to our operations. Short-term and multiple stop-gap measures diminish the investments Congress previously allocated and waste taxpayer dollars, as state and local agencies are unable to reliably plan and execute projects.
- Highway Trust Fund Solvency: While we applaud Congress and the Biden administration for providing five more years of solvency for the Highway Trust Fund, Congress must look beyond that window to ensure long-term solvency. The next surface transportation reauthorization bill must incorporate visionary and evolutionary revenue increases to avoid a disastrous shortfall. NSSGA supports sustainable revenue sources to adequately fund needed investments and create financial certainty, including vehicle-miles-traveled (VMTs), bonding measures, highway freight fees, registration fees for electrical vehicles and the raising and indexing of the federal gas tax, which has been unchanged for nearly 30 years.
- Airport Investment: NSSGA is looking forward to engaging with Congress, as they work to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We support efforts to continually improve U.S. runways, taxiways, and associated infrastructure through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Finally, we call on Congress to expand the FAA materials research programs to include critical aggregates research priorities that will modernize runway construction, promote sustainability, and deliver cost savings to taxpayers.
NSSGA Member Resources
NSSGA Statements on IIJA